They sent in the clowns.
Funny guys Steve Martin and Martin Short are comedy legends. And on Thursday night, they were in Omaha cracking jokes, telling stories and singing songs with a talent few these days possess.
“I’m so happy to be in Omaha tonight because Waterloo is a little too fast-paced for me,” said Martin, who said he played Omaha for the first time 40 years ago. “If we’d saved, we wouldn’t be here.”
“I’m so happy to be here tonight in fabulous Omaha,” Short said. “Y’know, that could be the Vicodin and Xanax talking.”
They’ve known each other for more than 30 years, first meeting when Martin handed off the script to “The Three Amigos” to Short. It was a short meeting.
Short recalled that Martin said, “Would you give this script to Martin Short?”
They genuinely made each other laugh, even when it was a joke they’ve told many times before.
It was largely the same performance they have done since their stage collaboration began a few years ago, but there were a few changed lines, several updated numbers and some slightly reworked bits. And the very end of the show had some totally new material.
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Comedy is funniest the first time. Keep retelling a joke, and it loses its edge.
But this time, it still made me laugh until my face hurt. Short and Martin are masters. One is spastic, and the other is a little more straight, but they have a similar goofball sensibility. Their timing is impeccable. The jokes were cutting. And the performance has only gotten sharper the longer they’ve done this show.
And beyond the comedy, they’re unbelievably talented performers.
Plenty of modern comedians are funny. They can write a joke. But very few comedians — and very few entertainers in general — can sing and act, write and play banjo, and bring a packed theater to tears.
Who else could put together a show like that?
Short and Martin’s performance was a showcase of all of their talents, a full two hours of comedy and music and stories and lots more.
They did stand-up, which mostly involved them tearing into each other.
“We’re like Trump and Kim Jong-Un without the sexual tension,” Short said.
They did songs, Short doing “Step Brother to Jesus” from his “Fame Becomes Me” one-man show and having a kilted roadie, uh, play him like a bagpipe.
“That you laughed at that makes me very disappointed,” Martin said.
Martin played banjo, stepping in with folk band Della Mae for a few songs, including “I Can Play the Banjo,” in which Martin played the same note over and over again. (Martin is, in fact, a fantastic banjo player.)
But they were best when they were together, showing old family photos, reading their proposed eulogies for each other and when Martin used Short as a Jiminy Glick ventriloquist dummy. (It was as absurd as it sounds.)
Their closing numbers were best, including a goof-off rendition of “Send in the Clowns,” in which Short changed the lyrics to “one who keeps tearing around and one who can’t move,” to which Martin offered a, uh, choice expletive.
Then there was the encore, a number titled “Five More Minutes to Fill,” in which they took potshots at the crowd, the Orpheum and, of course, each other.
“Enough of the jerk, enough of the gnome,” Martin sang.
“Glad I saw them before they’re dead,” Short quipped.